Barnes: Eng won't win SWC
London - Former England football star John Barnes insists it is unrealistic to expect England to win the 2010 Soccer World Cup.
The ex-Liverpool left winger said Spain and Brazil are the undisputed favourites to lift the trophy in South Africa this July - and England have no divine right to be considered likely champions.
Barnes, who played in England's run to the 1990 World Cup semi-finals -their best performance since their 1966 triumph - also urged fans not to heap pressure on the team's youngsters, and reckons David Beckham's absence could actually boost England's chances.
"It isn't a foregone conclusion. We have no divine right to win it or to get to the final and there are teams who have been better than us," Barnes said.
"Spain and Brazil are the two favourites, and rightly so.
"However, England are playing with a lot of confidence, stability and consistency which means they will get through the group stages will get through to the latter stages.
"But if we play Brazil in the semi-finals, are we going to beat them?
"We can, if we play to our highest level and our big players perform all the time.
"So it's unrealistic for us to expect to win it, although we can win it and we can do very well, but we have to respect the other teams."
Every two years when the major international tournaments come around, England loves to whip itself up into a football frenzy, before outrage, heartbreak and misery take over when they get knocked out.
Barnes, who won 79 caps between 1983 and 1995, knows plenty about the pressure that comes with an England shirt.
"The expectation from the public and the press is unrealistic because we would be the number one team in the FIFA rankings if we were expected to win the World Cup," the 46-year-old said.
Barnes identified Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney and Liverpool midfielder Steven Gerrard as England's key men, but said singling out stars disempowered the rest of the team.
"If Kaka doesn't play for Brazil, or Fernando Torres for Spain, they still expect to win," the former Watford midfielder said.
"Suppose Rooney is injured - are we then going to say we've got no chance?"
He also urged fans to not to lambast England's rookie players if they don't produce heroics.
"Rooney and Gerrard are experienced professionals who can handle it, whereas with a player like Theo Walcott, you don't want to put pressure on the younger players. Just allow them to perform."
Global football icon Beckham is out with an achilles injury, but Barnes said the veteran's absence could work in England's favour.
"In a funny way, it could actually help whoever plays on the right wing," he said.
"It can free them to perform without the pressure of knowing 'David's going to be coming on for me if I don't perform well'."
Jamaican-born Barnes is reprising his rap from dance band New Order's 1990 World Cup song "World In Motion", in a promotion for Mars confectionery.
There will be no England theme tune for this tournament, and manager Fabio Capello has also banned alcohol and the "WAGs" - wives and girlfriends - circus from the World Cup camp.
"It's no surprise that there's no official England song this time because Fabio Capello wants to focus on the game and that's fine, times change," Barnes said.
Much is expected of Argentina's Lionel Messi in South Africa, but Barnes isn't expecting the Barcelona forward to repeat Diego Maradona's winning turn for the South American nation in 1986.
"Those days are gone for one player to single-handedly inspire a team," he said.
"He's the best and most exciting player in the world but I don't think he's going to be the top player in the World Cup or Argentina are going to win it.
"It's going to be a real team effort for any team to win it."